Last night’s sale had all the hallmarks of a market driven by anything but fundamentals. Already there are cautionary notes coming out of the sale suggesting we’ve returned to an atmosphere not unlike 2007. And a number of collectors and sale watchers are remarking upon the artificial prices. What will the effect be of a sale price that was doubled with a matching grant for charity?
Judd Tully reinforces this point when he interviewed one of the evening’s big buyers, Stewart Rahr, a social presence in New York who is not known to be an art collector:
Caught on the stairway exiting the salesroom, a second or so after dealer Gavin Brown thrust his business card in his hand, explaining he represented the artist, Rahr explained his modus operandi. “I’m like this all my life, period,” the billionaire said. “All I do is philanthropy now, ever since I sold my company. Look it up.”
From the perspective of the art market—as opposed to the charity which was well served last night—the sale suggests random prices unconnected to the art market itself. Bharti Kher’s The Skin Speaks a Language Not It’s Own confirmed that when it sold for $1.78m, a hair below the low estimate including the reduced fees.